4 min read

Pat’s Gripes: Instagram Could Be Much Nicer To Use

Pat’s Gripes: Instagram Could Be Much Nicer To Use
This is a picture of some good tacos and cheese dip only beceause I like good tacos and cheese dip, it doesn't have anything to do with this post.

This is annoying to write. I don’t want to do free product design for a multi-billion dollar company, especially stuff that’ll be ignored because it doesn’t align with “increased engagement” or whatever. I guess I just wanted it off my chest.

Instagram as it currently works is very User-Hostile Software. It’s not trying to help you do what it is meant to do, it’s trying to feed you ads and drive engagement to features that are seen as a threat to its existence.

It’s so hostile I’ve tried deleting it off my phone a few times. The truth is, though, I love seeing photos of what my friends are doing; I love seeing their kids grow up or what restaurants they are eating at or what art they are making or what it’s like for them at work if they work 200 feet up in a tree or turned from card maker to wine maker.

Now, I don’t mind ads.
I really don’t, like I get it — how is it going to work without them?

I’ve found things I’ve bought from ads. Like this over priced coffee grinder just because it’s white and matches my coffee maker.  Or, even for work, trying a service that promises slightly cheaper shipping (which I can’t recommend since they lost a few things). But good ads work. So bring ‘em on.

I’d love a paid level that can hide them, but getting people en masse to join a paid alternative or even pay at all after something has been free is really hard.  I subscribe to YouTube Premium because they gave me an option to hide ads (and boy, do they show a shit-ton of ads on the free level). Same with anything else, I’ll happily pay a couple extra bucks to hide ads if I can.

But I can’t imagine the second-largest ad selling business in the world deciding a paid Instagram is a good idea.

So, for the love of god, please let me make my experience in between ads better.

Here’s some ideas.

🎸 Hiding Music Posts

I never want to see what people are listening to. I don’t care. Seeing an album cover in my stories? Why?

When I see people sharing what they’re listening to, I swipe left. I’m never gonna discover music this way. I don’t care to.

So, give me an option to hide those posts. I know I’m not like everybody and maybe people care that someone they went to high school with is listening to Taylor Swift’s latest, but I don’t (and I love Taylor Swift).

I’m not against learning what people are listening to to discover new music, but it’s not ever gonna be while I’m scrolling instagram on the toilet. It’s gonna be from seeing what folks are buying on Bandcamp.

🤡 Collapsing Shared Memes and Stuff

I only really need to see re-shared memes, tweets, posts... once.

If everyone in my feed is sharing the same “meme of the day” as they do, with adding no commentary, no additional insight, nothing — don't show it to me fifty times. Please.

Just tag/indicate that it's a “highly shared” thing. Show it on the first person who shares it in my stories and add everyone’s little avatar at the bottom. I don’t need to keep seeing it. I don’t want to keep seeing it.

Facebook proper actually does this pretty well. They’ll do something like “Bob and Fifty Friends Have Shared This” and show it only once.

🌆 New Post In Feed Bullshit

Instagram is full of weird conventions because of how they've flip-flopped on what the app actually is over the years. It’s their fault, but it’s created this elaborate collection of behavior meant to “fix” it.

Instagram knows everything I do in the app. It knows if I’ve seen posts in the classic feed. So it could do us all a favor and hide those posts again in stories. People are only posting their own post to stories “New post in feed” style because they’re afraid people will miss the main posts. But if I’ve already seen it, don’t show me the story.

🕸️ Fine Grained Controls

I love all my friends, but for different reasons.

We all have someone in our lives that maybe posts a lot of posts each day, usually sharing memes or other things, with very few personal posts. I honestly end up muting these people’s stories. I don’t want to, it feels like I’m telling them to shut up, but I do (and I’m glad they don’t know I’ve muted them unless they happen to obsessively see if I’ve seen their post, which is also weird, but you know, I know people do it).

Thing is, I really only want to see their personal stories. I have Twitter and Facebook and now Mastodon for those other things.

If I could say to Instagram, “You know what, for Jason, hide all the things he shares, but always show the photos he uploads” it would make me so happy. Because I like Jason and want to see what he’s doing, but not necessarily everything he shares. (And that’s just a made up name and I’m not at all talking about my actual friend Jason, I swear, kinda.)

Feels good to get that all off my chest?
I guess, but I am now, literally, the old man yelling at a cloud.

A bunch of essays, photos and thoughts by Pat Castaldo.